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Title: An applied linguistic approach to discourse analysis
Author: Widdowson, H. G.
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1973
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This study is intended as an exercise in applied linguistics. Its purpose is to explore work done on the description of language use for insights which might be developed and exploited for the preparation of language teaching materials, in particular for those learners of English who need the language for the furtherance of their specialist studies. Chapter 1 establishes this applied linguistic perspective. Chapter 2 examines what is involved in delimiting the scope of grammatical statement and looks at the ontological and heuristic validity of the langue/parole dichotomy. This prepares the ground for a consideration, in the two chapters which follow, of attempts to extend the scope of linguistic description by redrawing the lines of idealization to include variation and context. Chapter 3 surveys attempts to characterize language varieties in terms of their formal properties and introduces a distinction between usage, defined as the exemplification of linguistic forms, and use, defined as the communicative function these forms are used to fulfil. This distinction is developed further in Chapter 4 in which text analysis is distinguished from discourse analysis, the former having to do with cohesion, or sentence linkage, and the latter with coherence, or the manner in which utterances are related to each other as communicative acts. This leads in to the discussion of the relationship between sentences and utterances in Chapter 5, which deals with the problems involved in attempting to account for language use in grammatical terms, and which establishes discourse as a pragmatic rather than a semantic matter. Chapters 6-8 represent a development of the approach to discourse which emerges from the preceding chapters. Chapter 6 introduces the key notion of rhetorical value, which is defined as the meaning which attaches to linguistic forms when they occur mutually conditioned in contexts of actual use. Value is contrasted with signification, which is the meaning that linguistic forms have as elements of the language code. The two notions are discussed in relation to the sentence/utterance distinction and it is proposed that both of these should be distinguished from the locution, which is defined as the representation of a potential utterance, as distinct from a sentence which is defined as an exemplification of grammatical rules. Whereas Chapter 6 illustrates how value is realized with reference to lexical items, Chapter 7 shows how it is realized through locutions to create different illocutionary acts in a discourse, and the illocutionary act of explanation is discussed in some detail. The second half of this chapter is devoted to a specimen analysis which is intended as an illustration of the approach to discourse analysis that is being proposed. In Chapter 6 the notion of value is applied to linguistic elements corresponding to the terminal symbols of a generative grammar and in Chapter 7 it is applied to those corresponding to the initial symbol. Chapter 8 now relates the notion to linguistic elements which correspond to the non-terminal symbols representing sentence constituents which are subject to transformational operations. Transformational rules are shown as essentially rhetorical devices for creating ambiguity by dissociating locutions from specific deep structure sources and by thus providing them with a freedom to take on whichever value is appropriate in the context. Chapter 9 is a restatement of the principles of dis¬ course analysis which this study has aimed at establishing and suggests how the approach that has been outlined corresponds to other approaches to discourse analysis in¬ formed by linguistic, sociological and sociolinguistic orientations to the description of language use. The final chapter is concerned with pedagogic application. It shows how the signification/value distinction relates to situational and notional approaches to language teaching. It further shows how the insights discovered and developed in this study might be exploited by providing examples of exercises which are based on the same rhetorical principles as those which, it has been argued, must be applied in a satisfactory analysis of discourse.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available